Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

“NO DRAWING NO CRY” by MARTIN KIPPENBERGER and a change of direction

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

NO DRAWING NO CRY was created in conjunction with an exhibition titled Martin Kippenberger: Hotel Drawing and the The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “America” by the Smart Museum of Art and The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.  The book was published posthumously as an edition of 750 by Walther Konig.

Kippenberger created the concept and design of the book before his death from liver cancer in 1997.

In the “HOTEL” series Kippenberger documented his various “homes” in hotels over a — long period of time.  HOTEL-HOTEL and HOTEL HOTEL HOTEL (the first two of the three volumes) are artists’ books of Kippenberger’s drawings on the stationary of these hotels.  NO DRAWING NO CRY is the last volume of three in Kippenberger’s “HOTEL” series.  Set apart from the previous two, this work contains only one drawing.  As a posthumous work, the absence of drawings is a poignant conclusion to the series, marking the loss of Kippenberger’s life and the end of his artistic output.

There is so much to say about NO DRAWING NO CRY in regards to the materiality and the concept, but before I proceed, I have some emails out to the curator at the Smart Museum and the Galerie Gisela Capitain in Cologne that runs the Martin Kippenberger estate.  Hopefully with their help, there will be a more comprehensive post about NO DRAWING NO CRY in the future.

Instead, THIS MONTH:

Barbara Bloom’s The Collection of Barbara Bloom

LIST PRICE: US $ 65.00 / CAN $ 78.00
FORMAT: Paperback, 9.5 x 11.5 in. / 272 pgs / illustrated throughout.
ISBN: 9783865216212 / ISBN10: 3865216218



In Uncategorized on January 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm

In conjunction with “THE SMALL PRESSES” show at the Marfa Book Co., we created a small booklet of interviews and information about the presses.  The booklet includes a short essay by Tim Johnson and myself, as well as a list of all the works in the show and contact information for all the presses.

Below is the scanned version of the booklet.  Comments welcome.

(Click on the page itself for enlargement of the image)


In Uncategorized on January 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm

The following books are part of what might be called Kippenberger’s “Hotel Series” of artists’ books.  The third and final book in the series, No Drawing No Cry, published posthumously in 2000 will be one of this months impossible objects discussion topics.  Unlike, Hotel-Hotel and Hotel Hotel Hotel Hotel, No Drawing No Cry has no illustrations (excluding one) and instead includes only blank hotel stationary collected by Kippenberger.

Below is information on the “Hotel Series” from Uwe Koch’s Annotated catalog raisonné of the books by Martin Kippenberger 1977-1997:


Entry 109

Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther

König, 1992. 29.8 x 21 cm. 496 pp. (diff. papers),

246 b/w ills., paperback with flaps, edition:

950 numbered copies (of which nos. 1-30 are

signed with a signed and dated drawing and a

Polaroid, in slipcase/ nos. 31-100 signed).

“From 1987 onwards Martin Kippenberger, constantly travelling and staying in hotels, made many drawings on hotel stationary.  The result is a kind of autobiography documenting his ideas, plans and concepts for works, studies for installations, portraits, sketches and autonomous drawings.

The letterhead of each respective hotel not only provides a point of reference for the spectator and traces Kippenberger’s travels.  At the same time, the letterhead is often integrated into the drawing or provides the point of departure for the drawing.

In order to emphasize the inherent character of the stationary, different types of paper are used in the printing.

The title of the book is a reference to the American TV soap ‘Hotel Hotel.'”  (Koch, 252)


Entry 138

Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther

König, 1995. 29.7 x 21 cm. 630 pp.

(diff. papers), 313 b/w ills., paperback with

flaps, edition: 500 numbered copies

(of which nos. 1-28 are signed with a signed

drawing / nos. 29-100 signed).

“Hotel Hotel Hotel follows on from the 1992 publication Hotel-Hotel and show later hotel stationary drawings from 1991-1995.

The cover colours of the first volume (orange on pale blue) are reversed here.” (Koch 309)

Sample Hotel drawing, but not from either artists’ book


AUDIO from “The Problem Perspective” at MOMA

Rendition of  “Bang Bang” by Martin Kippenberger on ubuweb, explore here for more of Kippenberger’s music

Tate Kippenberger Symposium


In Uncategorized on January 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm

This month I will investigate No Drawing No Cry by Martin Kippenberger (exploring also his Hotel series and Uwe Koch’s Annotated Catalogue Raisonné of the Books by Martin Kippenberger 1977 – 1997) and perhaps more essays on the Art & Language movement by Charles Harrison (I feel as if I am taking a lecture series with Harrison right now that might last a while).

A discussion of “Ricas y Famosas” by Daniela Rossell

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Daniela Rossell’s “Ricas y Famosas” exists in what might be considered a interzone of artists’ books.  This is a tricky space.

By works like this I mean books of photography.  But, what are Bernd and Hilla Becher’s books if not artists’ books?

In an effort to escape this dangerous interzone, I’ll take a look at the book.

Ricas y Famosas was published by Hatje Cantz and printed in Spain in 2002.  The book is paperback, with 176 pages at 8.5 x 12.5 inches.  All the photographs are in color and most span the gutter.  Many of the photographs also take up entire pages, with no margins whatsoever.  The paper is glossy and sturdy, but not thick.

The book opens with the following statement:

Las siguientes imágenes muestran escenarios reales.  Los sujetos fotografiados están representándos a sí mismos.  Caulquier semejanza con las realidad no es una coincidencia. The following images depict actual settings.  The photographic subjects are representing themselves.  Any resemblance with real events is not coincidental.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that the photograph below is an actual setting and is not staged:

(Apologies for the quality of digital reproduction)

Speaking of truthful, honest, or realistic photographic depiction is slippery, but this is the discourse of Ricas y Famosas.  All text in the book speaks to the validity of the assertion that what we are looking at is real.  Daniela Rossell’s biographical portrait reads, “Daniela Rossell was born during the seventies in Mexico City, and grew up in a very ornamented estate with fiberglass replicas of Olmec heads in the garden.”  Rossell herself helps to validate the real by asserting that, this book depicts something not only about these women, the extreme wealth of a few in Mexico, but also her life and her world at a certain time.

Visually, the real is accentuated most fully in the photographs that take up the entire page space, with no margins or “negative space.”  This operates by bringing the viewer fully into the world of these women (and a few men).  This is their world entirely and the lack of margins allows the viewer to feel that this world is all-encompassing and expansive.  Without enclosure, we can imagine the image opening up in front of us, as if we could enter the scene.

Rossell dedicates the book to “the people that appear in it,” thanking “each and every one of them for opening the doors to their homes and workplaces and for having the strong character needed to be photographed next to their personal belongings.”  But, from the perspective of one outside this oligarchy, these images are incredibly damning.  It is impossible to not recognize the political elements of this book, the juxtaposition of the extremely wealthy with their “help,” the presentation of the women as sexually charged and doll-like, the insistence on a “whitening” of the self, the use of indigenous and religious material as kitsch decoration, and on and on.  While the images are telling of lives of the uber-rich in Mexico and the specific ways in which they display their wealth, it is important to not view these images and the political problems therein as uniquely Mexican, for unfortunately the gratuitous nature of the rich spans the globe.

What we have is not only an interesting, absorbing, and in some ways disgusting portrait of a group of people, but also a collection of photographs which consciously use the book form.  This is spoken to by the Rossell’s acknowledgment (I am using Rossell’s name here also as a stand-in for the book designer and publisher who probably also had a hand in creating this work) of the dimensions of reproduction, the recognition of how a page functions, and a careful consideration of the type of paper used to create the work.

While the book is not groundbreaking in the world of artists’ books, it is a competent use of the form coupled with striking visual work.

On that note, I will leave off with another one of Rossell’s images, keeping in mind that the digital reproductions do little justice to the actual images.


On the train with Charles Harrison

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm



In essay two (Conceptual Art and the Suppression of the Beholder) of Essays on Art & Language, Charles Harrison explores the art historical “train” that leads from Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism to Conceptual art.   The “train” as Harrison envisions it, is a train of reductions, namely the reduction of the object from painting and sculpture (abstract expressionism- optical, self-sufficient, high-art objects existing in ambient spaces, to be beheld and privileged), to “three-dimensional objects” or “specific objects” (according to Donald Judd, please see index*), to Conceptual Art objects (paper-based works, ideas, discussions, critical inquiry).

I will follow Harrison’s tracks, stopping at each of these reductions to explore.  To provide a sense of Harrison’s style and approach, I will begin each section with some quotations from the text.  Before starting, it is important to add the following quotation from Harrison:

“Changes in art are generally insignificant unless they involve some form of cognitive change, and unless they impose or presuppose some sort of modification of those processes of triangulation by means of which a spectator, a work of art, and a world of possible practices and referents are located relative to each other.” (p. 30)

Abstraction and Abstractionism

“The high-art object of standard Modernist theory was either a painting or a sculpture, each being conceived under a special kind of description:  a painting as something contained within its perimeter, not just its physical surface framed, but its signifying character contained within the bounds of what could relevantly be said about the properties of that surface; a sculpture as something contained within the ambient space of the stationary spectator’s gaze, its meaning restricted to whatever that gaze could pick out and animate with a responsive emotion…Outside or ‘between’ painting and sculpture lay the likelihood of aesthetic impairment and the virtual certainty of marginalization from the Modernist canon.” (p. 31)

Key terms:

The beholder : a term used by Michael Fried to signify the type of viewer and act of looking that is required to appropriately experience an Abstractionist work.  One had to be “properly receptive” and prepared for an experience “in and for itself.”

Self-sufficiency : A Greenbergian term used in “The New Sculpture” (published by the Partisan Review in June 1949).  Abstractionist painting and sculpture should be autonomous and entirely optical.  This aesthetic autonomy is gained by dismissing any acknowledgement of environmental or social considerations.  Hence the white walled galleries (sanctified, ambient temples to modern art).

Some artists : Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Anthony Caro

One of the striking elements about this period in criticism is how thoroughly prescriptive it was.  Greenberg and Fried outlined the whole movement  from what type of objects should be created (painting and sculpture), what should be depicted (abstract, optical works), who was the ideal viewer (an educated, aware beholder), and where the works should be viewed (sanctified, ambient spaces).

Works that fell outside of these restrictions were marginalized from the canon.  This includes the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp.  As Harrison states, “The interest in Duchamp’s works is limited by an incipient dandyism.”  The harsh precision of Modernist criticism begged for a response, which Minimalism readily supplied, maintaining some of Modernism’s prescriptions, while throwing out the window many others.

Minimalism and the Post-Minimal

“The point is, however, that Minimalist theory was the most coherent and the most powerful avant-garde discourse of the mid-1960s, and that this was so largely because of its cultural adjaceny to the discourse of Abstractionism.  It was for this reason that, until 1968 at the earliest, other forms of anti-Abstractionist practice and critique tended to be sustained under the authority of Minimalism.”

Key terms:

New three-dimensional work:  Although there is a vast variety of types of works that are subsumed under the Minimalist umbrella, the innovation came from the insistence on the physicality and fabrication of materials, namely industrial materials.  Instead of painting and sculpture, artists were creating objects.

The gallery: as opposed to the primacy of the Modernist private collection, these works tended to operate within the institutional gallery, allowing the objects to be both more transmissible and more commercial.  The move to the gallery allowed then for the late 60s refusal of the gallery in that you then could have, “the extension of the museum and gallery into ‘alternative’ spaces; the empty gallery as a form of exhibition; the catalogue as ‘the show’, the closed gallery as ‘the show’, the advertisement of the show as ‘the show’; and so forth.” (p. 46)

Some artists: Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Frank Stella

Conceptual Art and Art & Language

“The position taken by Art & Language in the later 1960s has been represented as the extreme form of a contemporary avant-gardism, as if it were a kind of ‘furthest-out’ version of Conceptual Art and therefore a bid for the ultimate Modernist reduction.  According to one (representative) American commentator, for instance, the Art & Language of the Conceptual movement took ‘the extreme position that there would be no use of material beyond print on paper.'” (p. 50)

Key terms:

The dematerialized object : This is perhaps a misnomer, for in fact Art & Language artists of the Conceptual movement were consciously using materials, such as paper, to objectify their ideas.  The art itself is then the inquiry or idea, while the object may perhaps be viewed as a surrogate.  While the conceptual movement did abandon the object as conceived by Modernist criticism, it is important to acknowledge that the object was not abandoned fully.  It is of interest that the most fully realized reduction in Modernism is a return to one of the most ancient materials of art making and communication.

The eye vs. the mind: One goal of the conceptual movement was to overthrow the prestige of the beholder and to shift how one views work- away from the emotional, auratic and creative, to critical reading and thinking.  Therefore the work was done with the mind and not the eyes.  A new set of terms and tools needed to be created that were not co-opted by a beholders mentality.  As Harrison writes, “These were not mere expressions of an avant-garde recalcitrance and exoticism so much as forms of flailing about – products of the search for practical or intellectual tools which has not already become compromised and rendered euphemistic on Modernist use.” (p. 56)

Some artists: Lawrence Weiner, Dan Graham, Robert Barry, Joseph Kosuth (*See appendix for more information)


So. At the end of this essay, we are left with the Conceptual movement (a movement that Harrison argues lasts only from 1967-1972) hanging in the air.  Moving through the reductions of Abstractionism and Minimalism, we reach perhaps the final reduction, that of  paper, text, language, discourse, and ideas.  Harrison argues that, “while others continued long after 1972 to uphold principles of consistency to their own formative work, but it was only during that five-year period that a critically significant Conceptual Art movement could be said to have been in existence as such.” (p. 29)  Harrison goes on to argue that if anyone remains critically interested in Conceptual Art it is because no other strong “candidates for avant-garde status” have presented themselves.  While some argue that Conceptual Art might not be of critical interest in a contemporary discourse, it remains a revolutionary moment in the history of art and a juncture in which Art and Language became symbiotic practices, subordinate not to each other, but to the idea from which they originated.  We should not forget recent exhibition of Conceptual Art such as the very interesting Quick and the Dead at the Walker Art Center and accompanying publication.

Some questions that arise from this essay are as follows:

  • How was paper viewed in Modernist criticism and how did the status of paper change throughout the Minimalist and Conceptual movement and continuing on that historical train into the present?
  • How does the critical (of Conceptualism) differ from the creative (of Abstractionism)?  How are they defined and how do they operate?  How are they performed and are they regarded as performance?
  • Is there perhaps a further Modernist reduction, past Conceptualism?


*Please see Judd’s essay “Specific Objects,” originally published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965 (p. 74-82) and then republished both in Donald Judd : Complete Writings 1959-1975 and Donald Judd : The Early Works 1955-1968

*Artists previously unfamiliar to me

There is very little information online about these artists, except that they were all pioneers of Art & Language in the late 60s and were based in Conventry, England.  Hopefully I will find out more in the future.

David Bainbridge

Mel Ramsden

Terry Atkinson and Mel Ramsden, Map not to indicate…(1967).  Letterpress print, 50 x 62 cm, edition of 50.

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